[WikiEN-l] "I want to at least kill the responsible person."

Chris Howie cdhowie at gmail.com
Thu Feb 14 16:32:08 UTC 2008

On Tue, Feb 12, 2008 at 4:31 PM, Raphael Wegmann <raphael at psi.co.at> wrote:
> Chris Howie schrieb:
> > We decided against spoiler templates because it is editorializing
> > content inappropriately.  It is not our job to decide what our readers
> > don't want to see; it is theirs and theirs alone.
> Of course it is their job to decide what they want to see.
> The question is, whether we want to offer our readers a chance
> to decide (if you want to see a depiction of Muhammad, click here)
> or we want to "force" (no, we don't force them to visit Wikipedia
> or read the Muhammad article) them to see that image.

I think we have finally uncovered the fundamental point that we
disagree on.  I don't think it's necessary to have any kind of special
accommodation for yet another case of offense taken at an image.
(Granted this instance is much more volatile and publicized, but I
don't think this is something we need to concern ourselves with.)

> > If Muslims do not want to see *depictions* of their prophet (that is
> > what's forbidden to my understanding) I have nothing against that.
> > However, I do not think it is Wikipedia's job to shield readers from
> > content they may find inappropriate; that seems to be where we
> > disagree.
> No, I don't want to shield readers from any content. Clicking a link
> is not a security barrier of any kind. Anybody who surfs the web
> should be able to do so.

As we do not do this for images containing nudity (and AFAICT we do
not plan on doing so in the near future) I don't see why this should
be treated differently.  And images with nudity have the capacity to
offend a far larger number of readers.

> > This whole deal seems to be "I don't like something so it's your job
> > to make sure I don't see it."  No.  If you don't like something then
> > it's *your* job.
> No, the whole deal seems to be whether we show a minimum of respect
> to our readers who happen to have a certain religious belief.

I'm all for respect, but I'm not for allowing groups to demand content
changes (or even meta-content changes as we are discussing).  If we
make the change this time that will set a very dangerous precedent.

> > Honestly I don't care if they do or if they don't stay away.  But it
> > seems to me that if they're offended by depictions of their prophet
> > that's the simplest solution.
> Do you honestly think we can write a neutral article on Muhammad,
> if we offend those who consider him to be a prophet?

Yes, I do.  Our goal is not to offend people, but if people are
offended by us achieving our goal, well, again that is their problem
and not ours.

> > Other solutions may be disabling images
> > in their browser or using JavaScript hacks to hide the images.
> It doesn't seem fair to me, that people with a certain believe have
> to choose between seeing no image at all or hacking JavaScript code.
> What exactly is the problem with providing an easy way to either
> hide or show those images?

It doesn't seem fair to me that as someone who has no problem with
these images I should have to deal with mechanisms that assume I don't
want to see them.

> > I have no problem with them reading or editing such articles.  I have
> > a problem with them dictating what we do with those articles, which is
> > essentially what's happening.
> Who is "them" vs "we"? Do I belong to "we" or "them"?
> It doesn't seem to me, that anybody is "dictating" anything or
> at least "they" aren't very successful.

It is my understanding that numerous emails requesting that these
images be removed entirely are what has caused this entire discussion.

"Them" being Muslims who do not want us to use these images at all and
"we" being Wikipedians interested in topic coverage and neutrality
above all else.  The groups are mutually exclusive, but are not a
dichotomy.  Also understand that this grouping should be viewed as my
opinion and not as truth.

> > Not caving in the face of demands like this is not deliberatly trying
> > to piss people off.  It's simply not caving.
> It can be both.

It can, but it's not.  The perception of something does not make it reality.

If we remove the images or provide some "hidden-until-you-click"
mechanism then we are saying that we don't care about being
encyclopedic if someone is offended enough to raise hell about it.

If we don't remove the images we are an insensitive anti-Islam group.

Damned if we do, damned if we don't.  I'd rather we be considered
insensitive than unecyclopedic, considering that we are an

> > This all depends what kind of link we are referring to.  Thus far the
> > demand has been that we remove the images entirely, which is simply
> > ridiculous.
> Of course it is. But since we are open for reasonable arguments,
> we can accept a compromise, can't we?

The issue with compromising in this case is that since we are arguing
sensitivity toward Muslims against Wikipedia policy, I don't see any
room for compromise.  We can hammer out a new Wikipedia policy that
directly conflicts with others to take care of this specific case but
then we are going to weaken the other policies in future cases like
this one, or even cases completely unlike this one.

Between being neutral and encyclopedic, and being sensitive toward
Muslims, the only thing that exists is a bastardized encyclopedia that
is still somewhat offensive to Muslims.  Nobody wins.

> > Invalid.  Explain how having artistic representations of Muhammad in
> > the Muhammad article constitutes "insulting or disparaging an editor."
> >  People choosing to be offended doesn't mean that what they are
> > offended by is a personal attack.
> Well, you can use the same argument for every personal attack in WP.
> People *always* choose to be offended, if the "attack" is merely
> a few bytes they *choose* to download.

No, you cannot.  Personal attacks carry an intent to do harm and to
disparage another editor.  Intent is important.

And by your logic, we should seriously consider any case where
anything we write offends someone.  Again, I can decide that "taco" is
an incredibly offensive word and demand we remove it or institute some
system so I can prevent myself from seeing it.  I don't see any
difference at all, except there are more people involved.

> >> WP:PROFANITY "Including information about offensive material is part of
> >> Wikipedia's encyclopedic mission; being offensive is not."
> >
> > That seems to strengthen my case, not yours.  By way of example, some
> > people may find images of the human anatomy offensive, but they
> > illustrate a topic.
> Yes, they do. OTOH WP does not display shock images even on the
> article about them. I don't consider that to be *censorship*.

Did you just compare Muhammad to a distended anus?  :)

Ok, but seriously, I don't think there is much in common between these
cases.  Shock images are intended to shock and offend, and that is it.
 IMO it makes sense in this case to not include them in the article,
though I would not object to them being present (perhaps a few
paragraphs into the article).

Images of Muhammad, on the other hand, are not meant to shock or
offend.  That they do is beside the point.  As I have argued many
times, images containing nudity are a good example of other cases
where we consider encyclopedic value more important than not offending

> Let's face it: True censorship is simply impossible on the Internet.
> No information can be "hidden" forever, because it will always
> be available on some other URL. We have to make editorial decisions
> and should always consider our readers and our fellow editors,
> when we make them. Pushing people of faith away from an article
> about that faith is simply a bad idea.

IMO using JavaScript to deal with this is the best idea.  It does not
push editors away and it does not compromise our neutrality.  It gives
the readers and editors themselves the ability to control what they
see without us making editorial decisions.

Chris Howie

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